Friday, October 29, 2010

The Waste of War

The Boston Journal has a letter from Pittsburg Landing, dated April 26th, wherein the writer says:

“It is raining hard to-day.  Yet as I look along the river bank, I see thousands of sacks of meal and barrels of bread exposed to the rain.  Near by is a quantity of mouldy coffee, wet in some former shower and poured upon the ground.  Many of the sacks of meal have burst by handling, and bushels are wasted. – Yesterday I noticed a teamster give a half bushel of oats to a mule.  The animal ate perhaps four quarts and the remainder was wasted.  He had had enough oats, or as the farmers say, he was cloyed and refused them.  It is waste everywhere.  No one thinks of economy.  No one cares to save anything.  So from millions of streams flows the treasure of the people.  O, ye thrifty farmers and mechanics of New England, who are taught to know that if you take care of the pence, the pounds will take care of themselves, who practice economy as a virtue, that you may have to go to him who needs, one glance at war – at the camps – at the riches trodden in the mire – wasted by neglect and destroyed ruthlessly – if you could but see the broken wagons, the dead horses, the harnesses, saddles, equipments, the tents, baggage kicked about, knocked about, stripped, torn, battered, thrown aside abandoned – you would raise one universal cry of indignation.  But let me inform you that indignation amounts to nothing.  What does an irresponsible teamster care for mules?  It is his prerogative to thrash them, to pound them over the head, to cut them up with his tremendous whip, to bang wagons over logs and stumps regardless of consequences.  No body calls him to account.  What does a soldier detailed from the ranks to carry corn care if the sack bursts open when he tosses it upon the ground.  Nothing.  It is not his corn.  He did not enlist to carry corn.  What does a Lieutenant care of the men under his command do waste the stores?  He is after military glory!  So with the captain, so with the Major, the Colonel, the Brigadier.  It is not their business to look after the little details.  They have other matters in hand.  Besides, ever before the eyes of a military commander shines the dazzling delusive light – glory in the field.  There is patriotism at home, but it is modified in the army.  Understand me.  Our soldiers, our officers will fight bravely, heroically, victoriously, but underneath all the bravery is the pride, the desire for renown, which makes men, officers especially, selfish, jealous, which stifles patriotism, and which, if not guarded against, leads to a sacrifice of public interests for private advancement.”

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, May 17, 1862, p. 1

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